As the last of today’s daylight disappears, big Charlie Rainville will walk into Custom Cuts for his appointment to have his hair cut. He’ll settle into Liz Leddy’s chair.

She’ll snip and they’ll talk. Rainville is a lineman on the Cheverus High football team and the big game with Deering will be less than 24 hours away. Cheverus will be in for a fight. Win and the Stags move on to the state championship game.

Leddy will nod and encourage. The 29-year-old hairstylist has her own fight Saturday night. Win and she’ll advance to the finals of the New England boxing championships in two weeks. Win again and she’ll be closer to an invitation to the Olympic trials.

Female boxing has been added to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Medals will be awarded in only three weight divisions.

Competition among amateurs to represent the U.S. will be fierce.

Leddy knows the feeling of being knocked down and picking herself up. As a teenage football player, Rainville has to know, too, although it’s a small patch of common ground. Leddy has been to hell and back.

She first walked through the door of the Portland Boxing Club some 12 years ago. She had no home, at least not in the normal sense. She had been on her own for several years, abusing drugs and alcohol, and getting money any way she could, which included asking strangers for spare change.

Leddy had more than her share of street fights. Her survival instincts were so strong, someone suggested she put them to more proper use in a ring. She listened and has worked to reclaim her life ever since.

“I dug a hole with a backhoe,” Leddy said after a night of sparring with several male partners at the Portland Boxing Club. “I’m filling it in with a teaspoon.”

Don’t stereotype her. She defies definitions. She can quote Thoreau: “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.”

Riding horses was her first passion. She dreamed of representing the U.S. as an Olympic equestrian. She was a swimmer. A soccer player. She’ll juggle five non-fiction books at a time. “The Danger Habit — how to grow your love of risk into life-changing faith” by Mike Barrett is one.

On her long training runs she’ll think and not necessarily about her next opponent. “It’s a daily job to mind my state of mind.”

She’s 5-foot-5, walks around at 132 pounds, but gets down to 125 to fight. She’s the top-ranked U.S. amateur at 125 pounds and third-ranked at 132.

Her boxing style mimics her life. Taking a punch doesn’t bother her. She keeps coming. Her stamina is amazing in and out of the ring. Twelve years is a long time to apprentice for anything.

She found a family in the boxing gym run by Bobby Russo. When female amateur boxing seemed at a dead end with no regional or national competition, Leddy took two years off to attend cosmetology school. The Portland Boxing Club paid her expenses. She worked for six years at a salon in Falmouth and while there’s a definite feminine side to Leddy, the salon atmosphere wasn’t quite her style.

She now rents space in Custom Cuts, a two-chair shop owned by Gregory Brown off Forest Avenue in Portland. It’s more traditional barber shop than salon and she has a growing list of clients. Leddy’s side is marked by a few of her boxing trophies.

She’s a four-time silver medalist at various national and international tournaments. Her profile is on the USA Boxing website. She’s a little fuzzy on the won-loss record. About 45 victories and maybe eight defeats.

She does remember her first two fights were losses.

“At first I thought she was one rugged woman,” said Lisa Kuronya, the college grad who became one of Russo’s more successful fighters, and a friend and mentor to Leddy. “Internally and externally she was very tough, and at first she didn’t have a lot of compassion.

“She didn’t respect herself at first so she didn’t respect her opponents. That changed. Then I realized there was a much softer side to her. Her confidence continually grew.”

Leddy fights Amber Schaefer, a Vermont Golden Gloves champion, Saturday night at the Portland Boxing Club. She expects a tough fight. But then, she’s used to that.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]